Culturally, Alcohol is everywhere - we raise glasses at weddings and funerals, at Christmas tables and on long summer evenings. Drinking alcohol (often to excess) is so much part of normal life that it is hard to imagine a world without it. Drinking seems to go hand in hand with fun and for many of us, it's part of our social identity.- how much we drink is part of what makes us who we are. But what happens when the fun stops? Millions of us worldwide are rethinking our drinking. The truth is that whilst alcohol might be marketed as a life essential - for many of us it only causes complications and distress.
Stopping such an ingrained habit can feel hard. Here’s the bad news - simply relying on willpower won’t work. (don’t take my word for it, it's been fact checked by science). Alcohol is an addictive substance, which is why it can feel so hard to stop drinking. If you drink very heavily and you are worried about stopping, don’t hesitate to chat to your doctor. Particularly if you are managing other dependencies too or you are worried about physical side effects. Your doctor will be able to offer advice and help you on your journey. Let people around you that you trust know too, so they can support you.
You might suffer with some side effects as your body adjusts, but for the majority of people, most physical ‘withdrawal’ symptoms only last a week or so. Again, while your doctor may not have too many options around the emotional side of your drinking, they can help manage the physical aspects. So let’s start by finding reasons to feel positive about making a change. Here are 3 quick wins - 3 reasons to feel positive about drinking less that could see you feeling better in less than 7 days
It might seem illogical for something that looks like water, but alcohol is a diuretic. This means it actually dehydrates you as you drink it. A bottle of wine can actually cause you to lose 3 bottle’s worth of water. Every part of your body needs water to function effectively, from your skin to your heart to your brain, so avoiding alcohol gives your body much more water to work with, which gives you a huge boost on the inside - leaving you with more energy, (and fewer headaches and better skin as well.) Don't be surprised if, quite quickly after cutting out the booze, people start commenting on how you look better.
As well as taking water out of your body, alcohol dumps a lot of calories back into it. Alcohol is packed with calories because it is high in sugars. A bottle of white wine can contain 570 calories and red is even worse, weighing in at a whopping 644 calories, the same as a cheeseburger and fries. Beer is no better - a pint of lager can contain nearly 200 calories, the same as a slice of pizza. The other problem with these calories is they carry no advantages, like vitamins or minerals, so they really offering you very little value.
It’s surprisingly easy how a night's drinking can use up a whole day’s calories. There is a reason why 'beer bellies' are so called! Plus, after alcohol, we tend to crave stodgy comfort food, which adds even more to the scales. When you cut out the drink, you cut out lots of calories and you can use these to eat a more balanced diet. Many people who stop drinking find they lose weight simply by not pumping in wasted calories each night.
Alcohol is expensive. It is highly taxed, which means every glass you drink has a big impact on your pocket. Dare yourself to add up how much you spend on drink in a week. You will be surprised at what a saving you can make by not drinking. Why not get a buzz by banking it as savings, or replace drink money with something more fun - like film tickets or a massage?
Hopefully these 3 reasons have left you feeling positive about making the change. But within a month, you will be feeling even more benefits from not drinking alcohol.
Alcohol can cause your blood pressure to rise, which puts extra stress on your body and increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. Within a month of not drinking, blood pressure drops, which can benefit your overall health, but unexpected things like your vision. It's actually true you see more clearly when you are sober!
The liver is the superpower of organs. The largest single organ in your body. It plays many roles - it clears out nasties from your system, stores minerals and vitamins for your body to use, regulates your hormones and converts food into nutritions for your body. Alcohol reduces its power to work effectively and increases liver fat. Binning the booze reduces liver fat and enables your liver to bounce back and work more effectively in many ways. As well as helping you work better on the inside, you will feel better in yourself and really see the benefits on the outside too. The liver's ability to regenerate and recover from the punishment you may vave given it is remarkable - provided you don't push it too far.
A big boozy session might see you slumped snoring on the sofa, but alcohol actually messes up sleep patterns and stops you getting the quality of sleep you really need to function at your best. Cutting out the booze enables you to sleep better which is essential both for the body’s healing and for brain function. Avoiding alcohol will leave you thinking more clearly and making better choices, as well as feeling less tired during the day and more motivated to keep your good habits on track.
As well as sleep, your brain benefits in other ways when you stop drinking. Alcohol has a negative impact on the part of your brain that looks after memory (the hippocampus). So if you drink less, you will not just think more clearly, but be crisper in your recollections and sharper in retaining information. This will help you better stay on top of things and feel more together, which will in turn, boost your self- confidence.
Alcohol is also a depressant, so taking it out of your system helps lift your mood and your energy levels. You will feel more energised and might use this energy to revisit things that you have previously enjoyed, like a walk in the park, a club or friendship group. Or you may use the time to try something new, or meet new people if you feel lonely. Drinking too much can rob us of lots of time and getting that back can be a gift to your future yourself.
Alcohol slows down your metabolism, which makes it hard for your body to process sugar and fat - which makes it harder to lose weight. If you cut out alcohol it is likely you will see your weight drop even without the gym, because your body won’t be banking all those spare calories around your waistline. When your body works better, you will want to work it more, so whilst stopping drinking might not see you start marathon running, you will feel more positive about being active, which in turn will boost your metabolism more.
Stopping alcohol can be the start of a whole new, more positive lifestyle. Make a single choice to cut out alcohol and you will see a positive domino effect, as lots of other related benefits fall into place to help you feel healthy - and leave you more wealthy to boot.
Whilst these are all important, amazing and life-changing benefits and I want you to experience them all, I don’t think they are the biggest benefit you can get from not drinking alcohol. For me, the biggest benefit is seen in relationships.
If you are struggling with alcohol, it's likely that those around you are struggling too. Your loved ones will be worrying about you or feeling angry with you, or struggling to cope. Drink problems create family splits, loneliness and resentment. They part parents from children and leave people feeling isolated and ashamed. If you want to change your drinking then instead of thinking about the ‘stop’, focus all your thinking on the life you will start when you leave alcohol behind. Get really really focused on why you want to change and what your future better life will have within it. Because we make much better lasting changes when we think forward to a better future, instead of obsessing on past mistakes. Looking backwards keeps you stuck - put your energy into moving past your problem and leaving it behind.
So if you think you have a drink problem, or are looking for reasons to change your relationship with alcohol, I would encourage you to be filled with optimism about the future that is waiting for you. Whilst the benefits of not drinking can be felt within days, the real gift that drinking less gives you is a better future life - and the capability to make the most of it and to share it with the people you love the most. That future is there for the taking! All you need to do is make the first step.
As a sober coach, I have overcome my own drink problems and now I run an online programme that helps thousands of people overcome theirs. I’m here ready to help you, if you want to make a permanent change to your relationship with alcohol. The Sober in Seven programme helps people reset their relationship with alcohol privately, at their own pace, in their own time.
If you would like to find out more about how the programme could help you take your life back from the bottle, click here